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Bertrand Russell: Why I Am Not A Christian

Posted by austinburns on January 22, 2006

Bertrand Russell: Why I Am Not A Christian

Learn about Bertrand Russell here. Basically, he was a logician who was considered one of the founders of analytical philosophy.

Overall, I pretty much agree with the theme of this essay. He does make some overly generous statements, such as:

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.


One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.

I don’t think that ALL churches are against moral progress, and I do believe that there are truly virtuous people of religion.

However, Russell does make some compelling arguments about the reasons why we believe in God and Jesus. He is also correct in stating that:

Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.


I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds.

For many people, believing in religion has nothing to do with rational thought or logical decision making. It is purely emotional. And I have no problem with that. I guess what really bugs me is when people blindly believe in something. Most people never take time to ask important questions like: Would a benevolent God really punish people to Hell for eternity based on what they did in a short lifetime? Is that really justice? Or is that overkill? Was Jesus perfect? Or was he just a good teacher and thinker, much like Buddha or Socrates? Jesus preached love your neighbor, but he also preached that men of iniquity will be cast into a furnace of fire, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Is that loving your enemy or your neighbor?

Also, Russell does outline some of Christ’s teaching that many Christians have a hard time following, such as “turn the other cheek” and “judge not, lest ye be judged.” Granted, these are very hard teaching to follow, but it seems that many people are unapologetic in not following these. Jesus very much taught nonviolence and pacifism, and I think that the greatest follower of Christ was Ghandi, and he wasn’t even a Christian.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I really do have no problem with people’s personal decisions regarding religion. I’m also not looking to convert anyone. I’m merely stating my beliefs.

I believe that people, on the whole, are good. I believe in the good of humanity. I believe in the power of humanity to overcome evil.

I do not believe in Hell, and I wonder if it is possible to believe in Heaven without believing in Hell. Is there a need for eternal reward if there is no eternal punishment? Is this world all we have? Is there anything after we die? My rational mind screams, “Of course not! That doesn’t make any sense!” but my emotional mind pleads, “There has to be something, right? Right?” Really, it comes down to the fact that we don’t know. We’ll never know.

And that’s the mystery. We’ll never know for sure. I’ll give it to God, He does work in ways that cannot be proven. By some cruel trick, he makes us believe in spite of ourselves. He gives us knowledge to doubt Him, but expects us to believe anyway.

He’s a clever one, I’ll give Him that.


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